Saturday, December 12, 2009

San Pedro Owl

I wanted to get out of town this weekend but various issues at work conspired to keep me from getting out early as planned. However, this time of year I don't have to go far to find something interesting and weather that I enjoy. In the summer, longer treks are needed to find nice weather (I like coooool!) and the sun is high in the sky making the light harsh most of the day. In the winter, we have excellent weather in the Tucson area and the sun is lower in the sky.

Various birds winter in the area along the San Pedro river, not far from here, and the rain we had earlier in the week promised the possibility of more water. Hunting for birds with my camera is great fun so I headed down to the Fairbank crossing, east of Ft. Huachuca, south-east of Tucson. The parking area at Fairbank is a nice place to park while exploring along the San Pedro but the authorities now have a gate they lock at dusk which isn't good for photographers because we often get back to the car after dark when out photographing at sunset.  Fortunately, on the west side of the bridge, there are a couple of wide areas were one can pull off the road without the threat of being stranded. I parked in one of these and wandered down to the river.

Hiking north, down river, I hadn't gone very far when a suspicious lump in one of the trees got my attention. A 300mm lens and 1.4x teleconverter on a 1.6 crop camera body gave me quite good magnification and I found that the lump was a great horned owl relaxing in a shady area of the tree. After taking a few shots from where I was, (the bird was small in the viewfinder and backlit by the setting sun), I approached in a zig-zag fashion, never moving straight toward the bird and took a few frames each time I stopped. Still the bird was backlit and the images were poor. Finally, when I was quite close, he spread his wings and nonchalantly flew to another tree.

He was still backlit in his new location. Again I approached cautiously, and got a few more images before he took off again and flew to the other side of the river.  Fortunately, the river isn't very deep and I had my waterproof hiking boots on so I waded across and approached again.  This time he was situated with better light on his front side and I got some better images. Click on the images to see the larger versions.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

hey- great owl photo!
you should be able to get some great pics of burrowing owls in the wash on the north side of the bike path on golf links btw craycroft and all the way as it wraps south (edge of DM, essentially). You will see singles, pairs and whole families (saw 5 once, ma, pa and 3 owlets) at their burrows, throughout the day.